With two supervisors likely running for mayor, the SF Board of Supervisors flexed a supermajority and shot down Mayor Breed’s veto of their measure to limit large towers along parts of the city’s northern waterfront.

As downtown SF struggles with vacancies, seemingly everyone at City Hall was behind a 2023 effort by Mayor Breed and Supervisor Aaron Peskin to allow more housing production downtown. Yet Peskin decided he wanted a carve-out for three small areas to prevent developers from (in his words) building “270-foot towers in historic districts in areas zoned [for] 65 feet.”

So, the SF Board of Supervisors passed Peskin’s carve-out in late February, with Supervisor Rafael Mandelman saying this week that the move reflected “our desire not to see the Fontana Towers replicated over the entire stretch of waterfront from Van Ness down to Broadway.”

But Breed vetoed that piece of Peskin legislation two weeks later, which meant it was done for, unless the board approved it again by a two-thirds supermajority. State Senator Scott Wiener jumped into the mix, urging the board to switch some votes and uphold Breed’s veto, with a Monday op-ed in the SF Standard entitled “Letting Aaron Peskin pass another anti-housing law would be a slap in the face for SF.”

Well Senator Wiener, the Board of Supervisors absolutely slapped on Tuesday. The board overrode Breed’s veto and kept Peskin’s legislation intact, in an 8-3 vote that just barely met the two-thirds majority criteria. (Only Supervisors Matt Dorsey, Joel Engardio, and Myrna Melgar voted to support Breed’s veto.) And Breed quickly took to Twitter to condemn this as “a setback in our work to get to yes on housing,” riffing on her own State of the City speech line of “We are changing our reputation as a city of 'no' to a city of 'yes.'”

The big swing vote here was District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani. Normally a Breed ally, Stefani reluctantly supported Peskin’s legislation in February, but more vocally supported it during Tuesday’s vote.

“It impacts the city’s oldest historic districts, a small area amounting to approximately 15 to 20 street blocks,” Stefani said of the measure before the vote. “Today I stand by my original vote.”

Another typical Breed ally, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, also helped shoot down Breed’s veto.

“I have been very frustrated about this fight over this little piece of legislation, which strikes me as being all politics and no policy at all,” Mandelman said Tuesday. “I have heard many different arguments about why this veto needs to be upheld, none of them go to the merits of whether the legislation is right or wrong.”

But Supervisor Dorsey held the line in support of the veto. “This is setting a dangerous precedent that protecting views and preserving density controls in entire neighborhoods far beyond their cherished historic resources would prevent us from achieving our goal,” he added before the vote. “Our morally and legally required goal of building more housing.”

But did it play a role that two of the votes, Peskin and Supervisor Ahsha Safai, are likely candidates against Breed in this November’s mayoral election? Judge for yourself by reading Safai’s remarks.

“The mayor's veto highlights a reoccurring problem with the inconsistencies in her policies,” Safai declared before the vote. “Why didn’t the mayor get involved in this conversation earlier? Why didn’t she try to work with the Planning Commission and engage in an effective way? Why didn’t she use her authority? That’s the power of the Mayor's office. The mayor has the majority [of Planning Commission] appointments, that’s how the charter is written.”

And Safai also referenced that preposterous mega-tower in the Sunset proposal. “Supervisor Engardio will say, I don’t think he wants a 60-story tower in the Sunset,” Safai added. “We need more housing, but it has to be done in a respectful way.”

Sure, this was technically a housing debate. But it’s difficult to see Breed’s veto, and the board’s overriding of the veto, as anything other than performative politics in the mayor’s race.

And likely candidates Breed, Peskin, and Safai all got what they wanted. Breed can continue to frame the supervisors as hamstringing her progress, while Peskin and Safai can declare they were an effective check on the increasingly unpopular Breed.

And all three candidates kept their rivals Mark Farrell and Daniel Lurie out of the headlines for another day.

Related: Breed Vetoes Fourplex Legislation, Says It Would ‘Set Back Housing Production’ [SFist]

Image: SFGovTV